Declaring what both by Duty and Priviledge a Son of God is, which he becometh by the New Birth.
JOHN 3. 3.
THe true nature of regeneration and the counterfeit thereof being already discovered, I shall onely insist upon one corollary, which may be deduced from this Doctrinal point, and so dismiss it. From what therefore hath been delivered, we may by use of Instruction gather, That such who are regenerated,*or new born, are thereby become the sons of God. Those who by natural propagation were children of wrath, by this regeneration are children of Grace. This there∣fore shall be the conclusion I shall insist upon by way of inference, viz. That those who are new born, are thereby made the Sons of God. They have God for their Fa∣ther, and are thereby put into a condition full of Priviledges, as well as of Duties. So that in the handling of this new state of Sonship the regenerated persons are put into, we shall speak first of the qualification of their Duties, and then of their Priviledges: But before we do so, some few particulars are to be premised. As
First, In being sons to God there are two things considerable.*
- 1. Their right to the glorious inheritance of heaven.
- 2. Their sanctified nature whereby they become like God, and imitate him in his holiness.
For as children of men do partake of their nature, and commonly imitate and represent their Fathers in their manners and conversation; So those that are born of God, are said to be Partakers of the Divine nature, and thereby resemble God, (according to our capacity) being holy, as he is holy. Now in the Sons of God we are to make a great difference between their right to heaven, and their holy nature and conversation.
1. For the former is not grounded upon their regeneration, for that is imper∣fect, * and their holiness being imperfect, doth Recipere magis and minus, doth re∣ceive more or lesse; but this is founded upon their justification, and is commonly called, Their adoption. Orthodox and learned Divines differ about the Order of Adoption; some make it a grace next to Predestination, and so before Justi∣fication; others make it not indeed the same with justification, but immediately de∣pendent on it, and grounded thereupon: and none but Papists make this Adop∣tion, as it doth invest us with a Title to eternal Glory, to be built on our regene∣ration.
Page 238 2. But then the other considerable property in our Sonship is, whereby we are * made inwardly holy, and upon these principles act holily: this floweth from our Regeneration; and so because of our new birth we are made sons of God, and are begotten anew by his word, because hereby we resemble God our Father: For as on the contrary, wicked men are said to be of their Father the Divel, because they do his works; So the Godly are of God their Father, because they resemble him: He purifieth himself, even as God is pure, 1 John 3. 3. So that these two carefully distinguished, will keep us from proud presumption on the one hand, and yet be a great incentive to Godlinesse on the other hand.
Secondly, Consider that Christ is the only and true begotten of God by an eternall*and naturall generation; we are the Sons of God by a temporall, and free gracious ge∣neration: So that it is a rule of Divines, Quod Christus naturâ, nos gratiâ, That which Christ hath by Nature, we have by Grace. Christ is the Son of God, not in that sense as the Socinians, and such blasphemous Hereticks say, Non factus filius Dei, but Natus, Not the made Son of God, but the born son of God, and there∣fore homo•usial of the same nature with God; and in this sense the Pharisees and Jews understood him when they charged him with blasphemy, Making himself, as they said, equall with God. It is true that place of the Psalmist, Thou art my son, this day I have begotten th•e, Acts. 13. 33. is applyed to his resurrecti∣on, and the manifestation, or declaration of his Sonship; but those places which speak of Christs subsistency, before he was incarnated, doe evidently argue him so to be God, as that he was the same with God from all eternity: and the first Chap. of Johns Gospel makes it irrefragably true, notwithstanding all the Hereticks endeavour to elude it. Well, as Christ is thus naturally, so those that are regene∣rated are thus graciously, and so are said to be co-heirs with Christ: though there∣fore we are begotten of God, yet Christ is the first-born, and hath the preheminen∣cy in all things.
Thirdly, Consider that we may be said to be the Sons of God in three re∣spects.*
1. As we are creatures, having our being from him: In which sense Paul san∣ctifieth that verse of the Poet, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, We are his off-spring, Act• 17. 28. What the Poet said of Jupiter, Paul applyeth to the true God. Thus God is a Father by Creation; and all men, even wicked men are his children in this sense; but this is no advantage, for though a man be born of God in this respect, yet if he be no more, he shall never see the Kingdom of heaven. He that made them, will not save them, saith the Prophet, Esai 27. 11. Though ye are his creatures, yet having fallen from him to take the Divels character, he will deal no more with you as with his own.
2, There are Sons to God by an externall Covenant, or administration of Grace.* Thus men receiving the outward seal of the Covenant of Grace, and submitting externally to those Laws God prescribes, are called Sons. Thus the people of Isra∣el are often called the sons of God, because of that external adoption, (Of whom is the Adoption, saith Paul:) Even as in the new Testament believers are called Saints, because of their external profession, though they were not inwardly holy: Out of Egypt have I called my Son, which though principally applyed to Christ, yet Typi∣cally, as learned men think, it was true of the Israelites called by God out of E∣gypt. Now this Sonship is also but Nominal and Titular: To have no more of sons then these outward badges, is but an aggravation of hell, and eternal torments, Thus Christ saith, The children of the Kingdom shall be cast forth, Mat. 8. 12. Oh the terror of this: Many that are now called, and reputed so, the sons of God, and the children of the Kingdom of grace, shall be thrown out from all those hopes and expectations they had. Even as among the Israelites, though there came so many thousand of them out of Egypt, and you would have thought that all those who enjoyed such miraculous mercies from heaven, should have been made happy: yet two onely of all that number entred into Canaan: So of those many that are Page 239 called, which have the name and external priviledges of the sons of God, even few of them will be saved,
3. Therefore there are sons by real Sanctification, as well as federal velation; and * these are those whom our Saviour meaneth in the Text, and to whom the inhe∣ritance of the Kingdom of Heaven is promised. Baptism therefore, and the Sa∣craments do not make you sons of God, it is this inward work of a new Na∣ture.
These things presupposed, let us consider as I promised, How the sons of God are qualified?
- 1. By Duty. And then
- 2. By priviledge.
By Duty: First, They have the Affections of a son in holy fear and reverence: If*I be a Father, where is my honour, saith God, Mal. 1. 6. If we are to honour our earthly Parents, who give us onely (and that but instrumentally neither) a bo∣dily being, how much rather ought we with an holy fear to deport our selves before him, who is such an Omnipotent Father, and hath other chastisements even upon the soul and heart, which earthly Fathers have not. Now this filial fear is an excel∣lent bridle & check to all that wantonness and insolency we many times run into, through our Fathers goodnesse and kindnesse to us: There is a servile mercinary fear, and there is a Filial ingenuous fear: the first is unworthy and unbeseeming the son of God, but the second is a requisite condition. Observe theu thy self: If thou art a Son of God, What holy trembling and fear will be upon thee in all thy approaches to him? His Word, his Ordinances will cause much inward reve∣rence and lowlinesse of heart in thee: Earthly parents are not Omnipresent, and so cannot be every where with their sons, which imboldens them to do many things which they would never do, if their parents did behold them, nay they would not for a world their father ever should come to know them. Jacobs children when they had committed that horrible act on their brother Joseph, all their care was to hide it from their Father: but now God is a Father every where present; he is all Eye, There is nothing done in seceret, but thy Father seeth it. There is no heart-pride, no heart∣earthlynesse, but thy Father seeth it. There is never a time thou prayest, hearest the word, but thy Father seeth with what frame of Spirit it is. Oh therefore if thou art a Son of God, thou wilt discover it in thy whole carriage: a Son feareth the frowns of his Father; I dare not do this; my father will be offended; and I, Whi∣ther shall I go? Thus the Apostle Peter, If ye call him Father, passe your sojourning here with fear, 1 Pet. 1. 17.
Secondly, The Affections of Sons are seen in a patient submission to all his cha∣stistisements,*for who may better afflict thee, then a Father? Whom I love, I chasten, saith God: And the Apostle argueth strongly from the lesse to the greater, If we suffer our earthly Parents after the flesh to chastise, how much rather the Father of spi∣rits, Heb. 12. 9. He is a Father of our spirits, and so he may chastise us in them: fill us with darknesse, sadnesse, trouble, and grief of soul. Now this consideration would greatly quiet the waves and winds which are ready to rise up in us. What is the ground of all our impatience, discontent, and trouble against Gods dispensa∣tions? Is it not because we look not upon him as so wise, and so potent a Father? Who can do it better? Can the Artificer know when his gold hath been enough in the furnace, and he will not let it stay a moment longer: and shall not God know when he hath chastised thee enough: If thou hadst a Child-like disposition, thou wouldst say, although all I feel be bitter, yet he is a Father still. I have been an ill Child, and this makes him a Good Father in chastising.
Thirdly, The affections of a Son are seen in being carried out in all our obedi∣ence to him from an inward sweet principle of love. In this sense they are said, Because*they are the sons of God, they are not under the Law. Not as if the Law were not a rule to them, but onely they are carryed out to obey it from a fountain of love: even as a dutiful child will obey his Fathers commands, although he had no estate, Page 240 or great inheritance to give him. And thus it is here, Though there were no Hea∣ven or glory to bestow upon a regenerated person, yet he hath that principle of love which would perswade him to obey God. Thus the Apostle, As many as are led by the spirit, are the sons of God, Rom. 8. 14. Such who have the spirit of God renewing their natures, and so guiding them by the word to their duties, these are the sons of God: Not that it is unlawful for a child of God to have an eye to the reward: for it is said of Moses, He had an eye to the recompence of reward, Heb. 11. 26. The greek word signifieth a fixed intent eye: and every amor mercedis, is not mer∣cenarius, every love of a reward is not mercenary, unlesse it be wholly and totally for this, being joyned with no love to God at the same present.
Fourthly, His affections are seen in his joy and delight in all those duties whereby*he may have communion with him. John 8. He that is of God, heareth his word. A Son delights to have letters from his Father, to have discourse about him, especially to enjoy his presence. Truely we have communion with the Father, saith the Apo∣stle John: O• then, What a discovery is this of thy sonship? How art thou affect∣ed in praying, in hearing, in all religious duties? They are a constant burthen and trouble to thee; this argueth thee to be no son of God. Let not therefore vain de∣lusions carry thee aside: It is not thy coming to Church, thy standing within Gods Courts, that demonstrates thee to be of God; but it is an heavenly and spiritual joy in these approaches. Doth faith work strongly in God as a Father? Doth that improove with much sweetness this relation, and hereupon thy soul be enlarged in much fervency of this spirit? This is to be the Son of God. Even as the Angels which in Job are called, The Sons of God, with much alacrity and joy delight in Gods presence.
Fifthly, The Son of God manifests himself in his hatred and opposition unto all sin; For * every creature acteth according to its kinde; the Lamb according to the nature of a Lamb: and thus because he is born of God, he acteth according to a Divine princi∣ple, That as God is a God of purer eyes then to behold iniquity, Hab. 1. so he is of a purer heart then to love and delight in sin. He that is born of God sineth not, neither indeed can he, because the seed abideth in him, 1 John 5. 18. All men are divided into these two rancks (saith Austin) they are either Filii Dei, or Filii Diaboli, The Sons of God, or the Sons of the Divel: Now their works will manifest them. Art thou a man afraid of sin, carefully studying to avoid it in thy whole life? Hast thou no more accord with it, then light hath with darknesse? And so for wicked men; Thou hast no love to their company or councel; thou hatest them with a perfect hatred; thou canst with no more love and delight be with them, then the Dove a∣mong Jays, or the Lamb among the Wolves, then thou hast a sure sign of a Son of God: But if on the contrary, thou art prophane in thy life; thou lovest those that live dissolutely; men that damn, swear, and prophane the Sabbath; thou art so fat from having thy righteous soul tormented with hearing and seeing such things, as Lots was, as that rather thou rejoycest in them, and makest much of such: What can be a greater demonstration that thou art of the Divel then this? If the Divel were to act visibly in the world, would he not live such a life as this is? Men therefore need not think it such an hard matter to know what they are: They need not say, Who will ascend into heaven to let us know how it is with us? For thy out ward life and way doth proclaim to all the world that thou art of the Divel: And although it would make thy heart swell with rage to be called a childe of the Divel, yet know assuredly by the Scripture rules, we can give thee no other name. Oh that a multi∣tude of those who call themselves Christians, should not be astonished at these things: What to be children of the Divel, to be limbs of Satan? Yet by their works they demonstrate themselves to be so.
Sixthly, The Sons of God they imitate God their Father in his love and goodness*to all. Our Saviour amplifieth this excellent property of God, That he causeth the Sun to shine upon the good and bad, and hence concludeth, Be ye perfect as your hea∣venly Father is perfect, Mat. 5. 48. If we consider the matter precedent, we should Page 241 have judged the natural consequence to be, Be ye patient as your heavenly Father is patient; but because goodness even to bad men, to enemies, is the highest degree of graces, and as it were the perfection of all, and without which, let a man speak with the tongue of Angels, and work all kind of Miracles, yea be eminent in all matter of Godliness, yet be without this, he is not a perfect Christian. Therefore under all the injuries, oppressions, and desperate persecutions, although revenge, as the heathen said, be sweeter thou hony it self: yet consider what God thy Father doth: How do wicked men provoke him every day, yet for all that he doth not make the earth presently gape to devour them! He hath not put out the glorious light of the Sun: He doth not dissolve the work of the creation, and blast every thing into dust. What an excellent pattern is this for thee to write after? Espe∣cially considering vengeance is Gods, and doth properly belong to him: and as you have God, so Christ also for an admirable pattern. Father forgive them, they know not what they do: Though he could have prayed for legions of Angels to deli∣ver him, and destroy his adversaries, yet he submitteth to Gods will. The Scripture giveth many signs of Grace, yet none is so remarkable and commended as this, Mat. 5. And howsoever some Papists think, to love our enemies is a meer coun∣sell for perfect men, not a duty to all Christians, yet it is plain our Saviour pres∣seth it upon all who would be the children of God: and howsoever this be not so much pressed and preached, we Christians do not among other symptomes of Grace look after this, yet it is plain the Scripture makes this one of the chief∣est, and is a sign Grace hath great dominion over thee when thou art enabled to do this. Some malicious heathens once met with a Christian, and beat him even unto death almost, asking him, What great matter ever Christ did? Even this great thing, replieth the Christian, That I can for give you, though you use me thus cruel∣ly. I confesse many who yet live in their sins, and discover no power of Grace, will yet proclaim their love to their enemies, and that they forgive them with all their hearts: but this is easilier said then done; and although we read of heathens who have been admirable in this way, yet they not doing of it by the spirit of Christ, but from an humane generosity, obtained thus much onely, That they shall he less punished then malicious revengefull persons.
Seventhly, The Sons of God, being born of him, have a more noble and heavenly*spirit then men of the world. There are men so plunged into earthly affairs; that you would think that were true of their souls, which the Scriptures saith of their bodies, Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. These are worms (I do not say and no men) but no sons of God. Thou who art born of God, shouldst do things like God. Fortes creantur fortibus, and thus that new birth of thine will not onely lift thee up above sin, and all such base defilements, but even above all earthly temptations. And thy body is not made more upright towards heaven, then thy soul is made that way by grace. Hence we are said, To sit with Christ in heavenly places: and as pearls and precious stones, though for the matter of them they be of inferiour substance, yet in their colour, lustre, and glory, they resemble the heavens, from whom comes the greatest influence to make them: Or as the Clouds, though generated from Vapours and exhalations arising from the earth, yet in their motions are wholly carried up and down according to the heavens; so these men though they have earthly bodies, live on the same food, breath in the same air as others do, yet are formed into the glorious likenesse of God; and be∣ing sons of God, disdain to ignoble and debase themselves by any filthy lusts: As Ja∣cobs son, because he was loved had a coat of divers colours bestowed on him, so God bestoweth several graces upon his people. The Queens daughter is in curious needle-work, and for her to go and tumble in the mire, is more beseeming a swine then a Queens daughter. Oh then that men who by birth or education being a∣bove others, judge it baseness to do servile work, would much more abhor sin as the greatest vileness of all. It is sin onely makes a man like a beast, or a Divel: when therefore thou art sollicited, or tempted to any sin, say, Remember this is not Page 242 becoming the son of God: though wicked men, and ungodly ones will do thus and thus, yet the children of God are better bred.
In the next place let us consider their qualification by way of Priviledges, and * they are wonderful, in so much that John by way of admiration, calls upon all to be astonished at it, Behold what manner of love he hath shewn, that we should be cal∣led the sons of God, 1 John 3. 1. Let his condition be never •o poor and miserable in the world, yet if a Son of God, we may say, Behold Gods love to such an one! Now their priviledges, Are
First, To be made conformable unto Christ in his sufferings. This is a strange pri∣viledge, * yet the Scripture commends it as one, viz. when for his sake we are op∣posed and troubled. To you it is given to suffer for his name, Phil 1. •9. And blessed are ye when all men speak all manner of evil against you for my names sake. And so, He hath predestinated us to be conformable unto the image of his son, Rom. 8. which as the context sheweth, is sufferings and tribulations, and we shall reign with him, if so be we suffer with him. Thus they thought it a priviledge, when they glorified God, that they were accounted worthy to suffer for his names sake.
A second priviledge is, The spirit of Adoption, whereby we are enabled to call*God Father, Rom 8. Gal. 4. Servants might not call their Mal•e•s Father; but these children may appropriate God unto themselves, saying, Our father: Oh what a comfortable condition is this, especially in sad times, when we cannot say any thing is •u•s, yet upon just grounds to say, God is ours. And having this spirit of Aco∣pion, we are thereby enabled to go with boldness into the presence of God. 〈◊〉 and slavishness, which is like a torment in the soul, is for a great degree quite cast out. Thou therefore mayst go with an holy and humble confidence unto God, 〈◊〉 say, O Lord, to call thee Father, to be assured of thy love in particular, this is chil∣drens bread, children are to feed on it: And what Father when his son asketh for bread, will give him a Scorpion? O, my Father, Why is it that I have asked for bread so long, and yet have a Scorpion? Do not thou then who expressisn the duties of: Son, question the priviledges of a Son: If thou livest like a child of God, believe al∣so, be •old also like a son of God.
A third priviledge is, The working of all things together for their good, Rom. 8. * Being the sons of God, they are made co-heirs with Christ, and by him have every good thing promised them, Whether things past, or things present, life or death, all is yours, 1 Cor. 3. Though men may admire outward honour and dignity in the world, yet certainly this is the state of glory to be sought for. When men are put into such a relation to God, that now what ever doth befall them shall turn to their advantage. They have the promise of God, which is better then the Philoso∣phers stone; for this turneth every thing not into gold but into grace and glory. No marvel though Moses adopted to be a son to Pharaohs Daughter, yet refuseth the plea∣sures of Egypt, and accepteth the reproaches of Christ before them; for to Phara•h all good things turned to his evil: his greatness, his power, his pomp, and all the miracles God did to him, but to Moses all his evil things proved for his great ad∣vantage. Oh then, with what spiritual content, and holy security of soul may the sons of God live in the most dangerous times.
The last priviledge is, Gods care and protection over them. Fathers treasure up for their children; and thus they being the sons of God. God layeth up for them: Our Saviour bringeth this argument to confirm his Disciples, and in them all belie∣vers, against sinful cares, and worldly thoughts, what to do. Your heavenly Father knoweth what you have need of. Oh then in any exigence, in any great strait, say, O my Father, though I know not what to do, yet thou dost: Though I am unwor∣thy to be a son, yet thou art gracious and good to be a Father. What encouraged the Prodigal but this, He would go to his Father: that was a sweet name, and would work sweet things: If ye who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much rather shall your Father which is in heaven? Oh beloved, wee need no other fountain to draw out water of salvation from: we need no other Page 243 hony comb to suck the sweetnesse out then this, God is a Father to his Chil∣dren.
Use, Are we by regeneration the sons of God, and do the sons of God imitate and resemble God, holy as he is, pure as he is? Then Who can bewail enough the*cursed and hopeless estate of most men who live under the Gospell? How are they af∣fected with this glorious estate of sonship? How careful are men to get their Lea∣ses, their Evidences made sure about earthly advantages, and not in the least man∣ner carefull to make sure this heavenly inheritance? And as for their lives, their fruits may make you know what they are. Is it for the sons of God to wallow in their swinish lusts? is it for the sons of God to curse, swear, and blaspheme the name of their Father? Oh let the heavens be ashamed, and the sun blush to see the wickedness committed amongst us, who yet would be all thought the Children of God. Thou callest God Father in thy prayer; Oh blasphemy! Is God the Fa∣ther of prophane wicked men?